My time in Spain has been a little bit like a dream. I’m doing so many wonderful, interesting, unique things that I couldn’t even think up in my head before I got here that it’s hard to believe it’s real. I mean come on, It’s me..Jen Herzog.. and I went to giant cities like Madrid and Rome. I’m studying for a semester in a city moments away from the Sierra Nevada mountains or dozens of beautiful beaches, where I know NO ONE, and am staying with a woman who, in just a few days, became my second mom. How can I possibly let myself believe that this is real life?
Well, last week something happened that brought real life to Spain and made it perfectly clear that yes, this is real life. My boyfriend, Kristoffer, came to visit me for the week in Granada! I had a huge task in front of me: plan a tour of EVERYTHING one must do in Granada in exactly one week. Oh yeah, and plan things for a foreigner who doesn’t know the language to do while you’re in class prepping for midterms. Easy. Well, it took a lot of work and planning but I think that he enjoyed his time here just as much as I did.
On Monday evening after classes, I took a bus to the Granada airport, about 45 minutes outside the city. This was my first bus trip alone, so I felt fairly proud of myself. I waited in the airport for a half hour and tried to study for my upcoming midterms but that was impossible because how could one possibly sleep at a time like that?! When the first person walked out of the gate I leapt to my feet and waited eagerly for Kris to come out. I don’t know what happened in the time in between but one moment I saw him and the next I was in his arms in the world’s biggest hug. Ever. I checked the records. It was the biggest. We raced to the bus that was taking us back to the city, caught it just in time, and the 45 minutes passed incredibly fast. Catching up with him was really fun! I could hardly wait to show him the city!
Each night for dinner, with the exception of one, we went out for drinks and tapas. In Granada, when you purchase a drink (beer, wine, soda, sparkling water, mineral water, juice), you get a free (or very reduced priced) tapa with your drink. These tapas can range from olives to small sandwiched (called bocadillos..pronounced boe.kah.dee.yohz). This is a much cheaper (and fun) option when compared to eating out at a restaurant. In order to show Kris the maximum number of places possible, we bar hopped to many different tapas bars (bar in this case doesn’t always mean alcoholic beverages. Tapas Bars are places that serve tapas with their drinks as a specialty or as a reason to go there). We went to the following places:
- D’Cuadros: I enjoyed Eggplant with Molasses and Kris tried a jam and caramelized onion bocadillo that came with chips
- La Cueva: (meaning “The Cave”) This place has probably close to 50 legs of pigs hanging from the ceiling because in Spain, salted and dried ham is a specialty. This place really only serves meat so I enjoyed a beverage and gave Kris my tapa (which was a few different kinds of pork/ham/sausage which I didn’t even want my vegetarian nose to smell). He seemed to enjoy it, but his review at the end of the week was that La Cueva’s tapas were the most “so-so” of all of them.
- La Riviera Cervecería: a traditional bar that you could probably find in America. On a whim, I ordered one of the only vegetarian things on the menu for us to share as a tapa: Rosquilla. It was a little sandwich that had round pieces of toast with cheese, tomato, lettuce, and a delicious sauce on it served warm. It was so delicious we actually went back on his last night there. This place was fun because they have a list of about 25 different beers and it tells you where the beer is from so Kris enjoyed selecting different Spanish beers. Maybe if we’re lucky, he will comment below and tell us his favorite. He also tried his first tortilla there. Tortilla in Spain is almost like a fritatta. It’s made with egg and potato and sometimes a vegetable, too. It’s a very traditional Spanish dish and we both liked it a lot!
- Carmela: Here, one cannot ask for their tapa, it is just brought to the customers. I never know these things, so I just usually go with the flow (I know, right? me..going with the flow. Never thought I’d hear that sentence come out of my mouth). We first received little tostadas with roast beef and some white, chive sauce on top. I ate the bread from the bottom of one of them and gave the rest to Kris. Next, we were served Pisto which I was super excited about because it’s my favorite food here. It’s similar to Ratatouille but better. Basically all of the veggies you can think of, cooked in a pan with olive oil and tomato sauce. It was served in a little ceramic dish with a tiny little sunny-side-up egg on top and a small piece of toast. Delicious! Kris ate his in approximately two bites because it was pretty small but I savored mine as long as I could because it’s my absolute favorite!
We went to a few other tapas bars that we randomly walked by (and Kris tried his first Sangria at one of them) but I can’t remember the names. My favorite thing, though, was that we tried our first Paella. I kept thinking to myself, there is NO WAY that rice could possibly taste so good that people go crazy over it and pay that much money for it (it’s one dish made to share and usually costs 16+ Euro, but it was a special nigh and approximately 10 euro each (with drinks and bread) wasn’t horrible (especially since we had super cheap lunches over the week–falafel pita sandwiches). Well, I got off topic there but ANYWAY the Paella was incredible and I would definitely get it a few more times before I leave. It’s FANTASTIC.
Overall, we both agree that sitting down with locals in Spanish bars, eating Spanish food, and conversing with the waiters and other guests in Spanish is one of the best ways to experience a culture, so we really enjoyed this part of his time here.
I took Kris all around the city. I got us tickets to see the Alhambra, which I’ve written about plenty of times in my blog so to encourage you to read other posts, I’m going to tell you to look for it in previous entries. From the top we took many pictures together and enjoyed the view of the entire city of Granada. Although I opted out of the (expensive) tour, I thought I was pretty knowledgable and gave a decent explanation of many things there. Here are a few photos of our day at the Alhambra
I also took him to see one of my favorite places in Granada: Carmen de los Martires. It’s a giant park/garden behind the Alhambra that one could honestly spend hours in. You can climb to the top and see the Ahlambra, the mountains, the entire city. We wandered around a lot, saw some peacocks, chatted. We actually spent the entire two hours we were there talking about one of the TV shows that we both enjoy the storyline to called How I Met Your Mother. He told me everything that I have missed this season on the show. I actually much preferred listening to him tell me about what happened while we were enjoying the nature than actually watching the show. It was a really enjoyable morning.
I also took him to the “Mirador de San Nicolas” which is a lookout at the top of the oldest neighborhood in the city called the Albayzin. From here you can see the entire city and the Alhambra from a beautiful angle. You can also see the mountains really well from this viewpoint. I took him there (it’s a very steep walk up and takes awhile) around sunset and we sat and watched the sunset over the city. This was especially beautiful because the Alhambra lights up bright orange. Something funny that happened there was that there were many people trying to sell things like handmade rings or purses and when a cop car pulled up they packed up “in menos que canta un gallo” (SUPER DUPER FAST) and booked it out of the lookout. Kris and I had a good laugh about this because their code word was “agua” which means water in English. Interesting.
On his last day here, I took him to one of my other favorite places. It’s a small village outside of the city. We took an urban bus a half hour outside the city and arrived at Monachil and hiked the entire morning. We brought with us a picnic of crackers, cheese, water, and pineapple juice. For a 3 Euro lunch and 1.20 Euro bus ticket, I’d say a quiet lunch in the mountains listening to the birds and the waterfalls is SO WORTH IT! We had an awesome last day together!
Saying goodbye was difficult. It actually made me really homesick. I genuinely wish that all of my friends, family, sisters, and loved ones could come here so I could show them how beautiful this part of the world is. But I want to make it clear that, although I am missing home this week, I am definitely loving living in Spain. I enjoy every moment and I love living the Spanish lifestyle so so much.
Thanks for reading my blog posts, if it pleases you more, you can click on the “Photos” Page (the tab at the top) and simply look at what I’ve done this semester if you don’t feel like reading so much. Please comment on anything if you have any questions or if you’d like me to elaborate or explain something that you don’t know about Spain!